This post is one that goes into more detail on how and why short-term goals matter more than long-term goals. I briefly went over this topic in one of the article’s in October 4th’s Newsletter, but I wanted to cover it more thoroughly here. I’ll begin this post using that same article:
You’ve most likely heard this before: a dream is a goal without a deadline.
That means once you have the deadline, it’s time to take action. To create your plan to accomplish your goal, you can use the S.M.A.R.T. approach:
You can use other approaches to accomplish your goals, regardless of which type of philosophy on how to achieve your goal, you still need to have short-term AND long-term goals.
Short-term goals keep you motivated and accountable. These are your “check-ins.” This is the category of goals where you initially force yourself to make changes towards your goal. These are the goals where every choice brings you closer to accomplishing your long-term goal or takes you further away. These are the choices, or behaviors, and sacrifices we make. It’s tough, but that’s because it’s supposed to be!
Long-term goals are the outcome goals. They are the “X” at the end of the map. They are the accumulation of all your short-term goals. They are the prize. Long-term goals are what initially brought out your motivation and at the end of the day it could be what keeps you going.
The troubling part is that people are too focused on the long-term goal that they miss steps along the way. They go from “A” to “C” or “D” without ever stopping and accomplishing “B.”
Weight loss is an easy and relevant example to use because it’s so common. Here’s what the initial steps could look like:
A: Establish “why” you want to lose X lbs or use the S.M.A.R.T. method (or do both)
B: Increase exercise frequency (like walking for 30 minutes 3x/week)
C: Eat more fruits and veggies
D: Sleep at least 6 hours every night
So what happens if you go from A to D? You obviously skipped a step, or multiple steps along the way. And then you have a slip like a stressful event due to work or a family member or a loved one. All of a sudden you’re not working as hard towards your goal because there was something that came up. Without established groundwork, you’re now back to where you started (step A), rather than being caught up on step B or C.
(For the record, remember that LIFE ALWAYS HAPPENS!! So prepare the right way instead of the fast way!)
This brings me back to the question: what do you do when something comes up that deters you from your goals?
If you took the time to create the short-term goals then you will have fundamental groundwork in how to accomplish your goal. You will know what you need to do to make your dreams a reality. It may feel like you’re starting “fresh” if you have a setback, but your body and heart know how to get things done, it’s that darn mind of yours that shakes things up.
You know what you need to do. You know you need to add exercise that consists of resistance training in order to achieve sustainable weight loss. You know you need to stop eating more. You know you need to eat more fruits and veggies. You know you shouldn’t be going out to eat more than once or twice each week.
If your goal is weight loss (let’s say your goal is to lose 100 lbs) you become so focused on losing 100 lbs that you miss a couple steps along the way like food prep, consistent exercise, and not eating processed food like chips every day. Maybe you also didn’t establish that you need to lose 10 lbs before you lose 100 lbs, and a goal of 10 lbs/month for the first 2 months is a realistic goal to have.
8 weeks later you’re down 20 lbs, but then work gets crazy busy and now you can’t make it to your walks as much and all of a sudden you gain the 20 lbs back in 5 weeks. You didn’t just gain 5 back, or 10 back, you gained it ALL back.
You gained it all back because you never set up all the short-term goals like meal prepping on Sundays or weight training 3x/week or choosing berries over chips. Setting up those goals could have helped you still lose weight and accomplish your goal while things at work got tough. (There are obviously a ton of other scenarios and options that could occur.)
The point is, when times get tough, recollect on how you got to where you were in the first place. It’s always been a long-term approach, but we tend to think in quick-fixes. Quick-fixed do NOT work.
The reasons above are the exact reasons why the quick-fix supplement companies that get you to do a “30 day Challenge” don’t last because you don’t form any GOOD habits. You just drink a bunch of their shakes, slap on a patch, or take some fat-burners that are supposed to help you lose weight, yet you continue to eat chips, NOT meal prep, and couldn’t fathom exercising. There are exceptions of course, but there’s also a reason why “fat loss supplements” are part of a multi-billion dollar industry.
Another example of preparing for a fitness-related goal could be training for a marathon. You don’t start training for a marathon by running 25 miles for your first training session. You start by knocking out shorter mileage sessions while working on your cadence, pace, and gait. Then you progress to longer runs once or twice a week. Eventually you’ll add hill interval days, cross-training days, and much more! Failure to do these small steps will most likely lead to over-training, injury, and a poor marathon time.
Remember to focus on the short-term goals as you keep your eyes on the long-term. Focusing only on the long-term goal neglects all of the essential building-blocks necessary to get you there safely and correctly.